Friday, December 20, 2013

Packing Thoughts

                So as I sit here with a sore arm (my host mom and I just lugged my biggest bag down three flights of stairs) in a mostly empty room and country music jamming on this last night in Angers, it’s time to do some reflecting on my experiences these past four wonderful months. I can now say that I have lived in France and visited Ireland, Spain and Italy ; that I took an entire semester’s worth of classes entirely in French, that I now have friends from all over the world, and that France would be perfect if only they had American-sized coffees. While of course I CANNOT wait to see my family at the airport tomorrow and spend a good three weeks with them, it feels weird to think about going back to CMU because in my head I’d be coming right back here.  France has stolen my heart and while by no means am I about to up and move here for good, I am definitely planning on returning when I finish school to work as an English teaching assistant in a middle or high school.
                I have learned so much this semester outside of my course work ; I’ve learned how to be a foreigner and what it means to walk into an office and not know if I will be able to communicate to them what I need, to have someone say something to you and not have the slightest idea of what they said. I’ve encountered difficulties with getting money transferred and not knowing how I will get the things I need. But through all of these challenges I have grown so much and have really developed a capacity to empathize with the outsider. It is really hard to integrate yourself into a new culture and a new language but I am so much stronger for it and I have done some really amazing things with my time here.
                That being said, I am SO ready to go home for a while. I’ve already requested steak for my first dinner and bbq chicken for my second and waffles for breakfast. My first purchase once back in the States will be a large regular black coffee and yes I might cry when I am back on American soil as I land in Philly and there is an even higher chance that I will when I see my family. So there is that. Also I am so ready to make the most of my next semester at CMU because new perspectives and new lessons hurray!

                Queue Southern Comfort Zone by Brad Paisley. This is Paige signing out. Happy holidays friends.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Rome/Paris Take Over!

Only a week and a half left!!! Wow has time flown! Last week I had a couple of midterms (yuck) and now I have started to get ready for finals! I have two Friday then a ridiculous amount next week so wish me luck!
This weekend I visited Rome and Paris with a group of friends!! Friday we spent most of the day traveling, arriving in Rome around 7pm. We found out hostel, which turned out to be a homey little Bed and Breakfast apartment and as far as I know we were the only ones there that weekend, which was awesome. We then went out to eat and had PASTA and GELATTO and it was incredible!!! Then we went on an adventure to see the Trevi Fountain and make some wishes!
The next day we got up bright and early to get to the Vatican by 8:30. Note: if you plan on going there do your research beforehand because there weren’t very many signs and it was really hard to find the right place to go in… But we found it in the end and we checked out the Museum and the Sistine Chapel and all that fun stuff! Next we visited the Coliseum!! This was my favorite, it was so incredible!! We were too late to tour the Roman Forum but you could see a lot of it from outside and it was awesome! Broken columns, arcs and chapiteaux everywhere! Next we headed off to see the Pantheon where we saw Raphael’s tomb and after a dinner break we visited the Spanish Steps!!
Unfortunately our plane was at 6:30 the next morning so we planned to take a taxi there at 3am and did not sleep that night… So we arrived back in Paris at 10am Sunday morning and spent the day exploring! We visited the Catacombs, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame (all decorated for Christmas!) and the Champs Elysées and Arc de Triomphe! At the Champs Elysees the Christmas Markets had been set up and there were Christmas lights everywhere! It was so beautiful! We then had to head back to the train station to catch our train at 9:45 and we were back to Angers by 11:30pm. What a long weekend! It was so much fun though! My feet still hurt from all the walking and I’m still catching up on sleep but it was definitely worth it.

The rest of this week is pretty busy as well; tonight is the International Soiree (for which I will be performing a skit with my Theatrical Expression class!) and Friday I have two oral exams (yikes!). So wish me luck and I will keep you updated!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


We are in the final stretch! These next few weeks are going to be a little stressful because in most classes I have to take a two tests, one regularly scheduled one similar to a midterm and also my final exams! The test schedule is so cramped because most students don’t leave until the semester ends at the end of January but us Americans leave before Christmas so we have to take our exams early. Yikes, wish me luck. I had two in my language class Friday morning (RIGHT AFTER THANKSGIVING!! – I WAS NOT HAPPY) anyways, it went fine so moving on. I have two this coming week, at least three the week after that and at least four my final week…
On a more positive note this week I attended an International Dinner! It was a potluck so everyone brought a dish traditional of their country (I brought No-Bakes!) and holy cow is authentic Asian food delicious; Chinese, Japanese, Korean, bring it on! They were definitely my favorite dishes.
For Thanksgiving I got together with some friends and we had another potluck! I made No-bakes again to finish off my ingredients. We had chicken, mashed potatoes, mac n cheese, turkey sandwiches, guacamole (one of the girls was Mexican) and it was delicious! It was so great to at least be able to have a meal with friends and of course we all went around and said what we were thankful for! Not having the option to be with my family, it was the best Thanksgiving I could have had!

Yesterday was my excursion to Normandy and holy cow, what a powerful experience. We first visited a World War II museum, then the American Cemetery and finally the beaches. World War II memorials are so much more powerful here because as an American, for me it was always just another war we fought but other here everyone was affected by it and so many soldiers and civilians alike were killed in the conflict. Seeing the 9,387 American graves, some of which were unknown soldiers, some had been visited recently which flowers next to them was such a moving experience and really gives perspective to the enormity of this battle and World War II as a whole. Omaha Beach, one of the landing points is so beautiful; it was so hard to imagine that it was once the site of that awesome battle. I cannot imagine the bravery of those soldiers. We ended the trip by visiting the Pointe du Hoc, a cliff that overlooks both the Omaha and Utah Beaches that was a crucial defensive point for the Germans that was taken by a couple battalions of US Army Rangers. Today it stands as a tribute to the Rangers and has not been altered since the war. There are still craters from bombs and old half destroyed bunkers that scatter the point. It is such a beautiful and sad place. If you know a veteran, thank them for me, because I am beyond words.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Babysitting and Castle Adventures

Wow the past two weeks have flown by ! Sorry I have not had the chance to write to you ! Classes are going well and keeping me busy. Last weekend I spent catching up on work that I had put off while my family was here and also catching up on rest because we are in the final count down now !! Only four weeks left until I am back ! Holy cow has time flown !!
I have started babysitting for the director of the international program here once a week so that she can have some extra time herself. She is a single mother as well as dedicated teacher and director so I am very excited about the opportunity to give back to her for all the hard work she puts in for us students and it is great getting to know her better. Her son is named Olly, is almost two and one of the cutest little boys ever. While I am watching him we play games and watch movies in English because she wants to raise him bilingually. It is really interesting because he usually responds in French, although he mostly understands me in English (sometimes I have to repeat in French). So that has been a fun addition to my week !  
Yesterday I went on a mini adventure to a small town called Amboise with my friend Min. Our plan was to see the château there and Leonardo de Vinci’s house then take a train over to another beautiful château nearby. We ended up seeing a bunch of our friends there because the CIDEF excursion was also spending some time there so we toured the château and Leo’s house with them before getting lunch together !  It was a great time ! The château was stunning and included a chapel where Leonardo is buried !! That was very cool to see. His house was awesome too however a lot of rooms where closed to the public so we enjoyed his gardens the most because a lot of his inventions were on display there.
Once they left, we headed back to the train station to get a ticket over to Chenonceau, the other château we had planned to see, however there were no direct trains and the only one would get us there had a long layout and we would have arrived after it closed !! So we just bought a ticket home… We did have a really great morning though plus we were exhausted so it was nice to be home a little earlier even if we didn't see all that we had planned.

This week I have a couple tests so wish me luck ! Next weekend will be fun though because I am going on the Normandy excursion AND a German friend from the September class is coming back to visit for the weekend so that will be great to see him !

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Family Time!

What a week ! As you know my family came to visit me and we had an amazing time!
                I met them at the airport in Paris on Friday, and we spent the weekend there! Friday we visited the Musée de l’armée and basically wandered around seeing all the fancy shops, a few Cathedrals and what not. Saturday we saw the Catacombs (spooky!) the Eiffel Tower and went on an impromptu dinner cruise on the Seine! It was so amazing! All the monuments and famous buildings were lit up by then so we could easily pick out the Louvre, the Musé d’Orsay, Notre Dame, etc. Also the food was delicious, so it was a fantastic time. Afterwards we meant to go see the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées but it started pouring on us! As in we were soaked immediately so we turned back and called in a night. Sunday we got up bright and early because Versailles AND the Louvre had free entry! So we went to Versailles first and holy crap, it was stunning. We got to see the Palace including but not limited to the King’s and Queen’s rooms, the Hall of Mirrors, as well as tour the gardens in the back. Definitely makes the list of most beautiful places I have ever been. Next we hurried back to see the Louvre! We found a side entrance so we skipped the huge line out front (suckers!) It was amazing! We didn’t have much of a plan except to see the Mona Lisa (she’s still looking good!) so after that we meandered through ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian works. We exited through the front because of course we had to see the pyramid and the lovely courtyard. After that we had to catch our train back to Angers!

                This week I had all my midterms and my family needed to catch up on sleep because I didn’t really let them while we were in Paris. There was way too much to see for them to be sleeping all day! So we took it easy and enjoyed our time together. They got to walk me to class and I showed them around town. We saw some of the nice parks, two cathedrals (a “young” one built “only” 200 years ago and the other building in the 1300s!) and the chateau during the course of the week. Thursday my host family had us all over for dinner! It was so much fun! They invited a neighbor who works for my school and is also American to help me translate (my family doesn’t speak any French and my host family doesn’t speak English!). The food was delicious (as always) and we had a really great time. It was nice to show my family where I live and who I live with and they feel much better going home and knowing first hand that I am in good hands here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Heyyy Barcelonaaaa!

Hello friends! Sorry I took me a few days longer than I would have liked to get this out to you, however I’m here now! Hurray! So we’ll start with the boring school stuff first then I will tell you all about Barcelona!!
                Classes are going great! I really enjoy all of them and they are definitely keeping me busy. Mostly because I am a chronic overachiever and have been doing exercises on my own. But I was rewarded for all my hard work because I finally dreamt in French!! I was so excited I woke myself up…oops. This week I have to study super hard though because next week is midterms and my family will be here so I’m trying to get the bulk of my studying out of the way before they get here (OMG TWO DAYS !)
Okay now Barcelona:
                So I may or may not have skipped my classes Thursday and Friday (okay I did) but I checked with my professors and got the notes from other students so no worries; anyways it was totally worth it. There were five of us that went, myself, three other Americans; Casey, Emma and Kallie, and my friend Min from South Korea. Our travels went smoothly (train, plane and bus) and we arrived Thursday night at the hostel without incident. The language barrier was virtually non-existent because apparently everyone in Barcelona speaks English in addition to Catalan and or Spanish. Europeans and their multi-linguists amaze me to no end.  
                Anyways we started bright and early Friday morning with a free tour! Our tour guide was amazing and you could really tell that he loves Barcelona and loves sharing that passion with others.  He was incredibly knowledgeable of history of Barcelona and where all the buildings, monuments and parks fit in. After our tour we found the most beautiful fountain (second most beautiful place I have ever been), saw the Arc de Triomf and hit up the beach! It was a fantastic day. Saturday also started bright and early because we wanted to get to the Sagrada Famillia before the lines got outrageous. If you ever have the opportunity to go there, do it. It is THE most beautiful place I have ever been. The outside is sweet but the inside is stunning. Seriously amazing.

                Next we found a huge market full of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats of every variety, so of course we got lunch there. Nothing like freshly squeezed fruit juice and authentic Spanish food on a Saturday afternoon. Next we were off to see Park Guell, where we saw Gaudi’s house, two other houses and other various creations of his. It was so incredible!! Once we were done there we found a little Chinese restaurant to eat at in peace while the Barcelonans gathered in every public facility that had a TV to watch the Barcelona-Real Madrid game. Holy cow do they love their soccer!! We hit the hey early that night because our train was at 8am the next morning and while our hostel experience was really good, it was still really hard to sleep for longer than a few hours at a time without being woken up by someone. So that’s it for our adventure, no one got pick-pocketed, I saw my top two most beautiful places and now here are some pictures: